Bonnet Springs: $1.3 Million Gift Starts Fund Drive

A $1.3 million donation for a botanical garden and greenhouse at the planned Bonnet Springs Park kicked off a capital campaign aimed at raising $25 million. The donation was made by the family of Jack Harrell Jr. In addition, a new Friends of the Park campaign hopes to foster broad public support through $30 annual memberships. Park promoters target spring 2021 for opening, and estimate total costs at $110 million.

Dyslexics Beware: Nineteen61 Moves As 1916 Pub Opens

Foodies are unlikely to confuse Latin fusion cuisine with Irish pub fare, but it’s still amusing that 1916 Irish Pub was announced the same day that Chef Marcos Fernandez’ Nineteen 61 held its grand opening downtown. The upscale eatery’s new home in the building that formerly housed Posto 9 seats three times as many diners as its former Dixieland location. Meanwhile, the Irish pub is at least the fourth private purveyor running the kitchen, bar and catering at the city’s Cleveland Heights Golf Course Clubhouse.

Same-Day Health Options Expanding

Lakeland residents don’t have to look far to find a nearby center where they can get same-day health care. There are currently at least nine urgent care centers in town, including one, Med–Express, that hosted a grand opening last month at 3700 U.S. 98 N. Watson Clinic plans to break ground this month on an urgent care center at its Oakbridge location. In addition to typical walk-in clinic services, the new Watson center will offer some advanced diagnostic services such as CT scans and ultrasounds.

Lakeland Regional Health Plans CEO Transition

A change of command is in the works at Lakeland Regional Health, but it doesn’t take place for nearly a year and a half. Elaine C. Thompson, who has run the hospital since 2010, plans to retire at age 65 when her current contract ends Dec. 31, 2020. The LRH board has already chosen her successor: Danielle Drummond, 42, currently senior VP and chief operating officer. Drummond previously worked under Thompson when she was president of a hospital in suburban Philadelphia.

Florida Avenue Gets RR Crossing Warning Signs

Electronic signs that were activated last month on Florida Avenue flash warnings when downtown rail crossing barriers are about to go down. Drivers can choose alternate routes or stay the course, according to a spokesman for the Florida Department of Transportation, which funded the nearly $900,000 system, the first of its kind in the state. The new warning system is being watched by cities in other parts of Florida that have similar traffic tie-ups at train crossings.

City Sets Affordable Housing Strategy

While there’s no formal action yet, city commissioners have endorsed several steps designed to increase the pool of housing available for moderate-income families. Those include an appropriation of $250,000 that would help create a pool of money to be loaned to a developer to build affordable single-family and multi-family housing units on properties currently owned by the city or by the Community Redevelopment Agency. The city for the first time has placed a senior manager, Teresa Maio, in charge of affordable housing efforts.

Hospital Request Could Produce a Property Tax Hike

Facing financial challenges, Lakeland Regional Health has asked the city of Lakeland to forego planned rent increases through 2025. If city commissioners approve the request, it would mean a $48.6 million revenue reduction over the next few years for the city and a possible property tax increase for residents. About one-third of the hospital’s lease payments subsidize city operations, and the rest goes into capital projects.

Two Groups Work On Park Name Compromise

The African-American cavalry troops known as Buffalo Soldiers who camped on the shore of Lake Wire in 1898 are remembered by a historic marker on the Peachtree Street side of the lake. But Buffalo Soldier re-enactor Richard Wilder wants a more significant commemoration, and he asked city commissioners to change the name of nearby Freedom Park to Buffalo Soldiers Park. The chief proponents of Freedom Park want to retain the name, so they’re meeting with Wilder to see if they can work out a compromise.

Mobile App, Free Wifi Coming To Local Buses

Lakeland buses are going high-tech. New technology being introduced by the Citrus Connection will include a mobile payment app, a Smart Card tracking program that could save money for some passengers and a test of free on-bus wifi. Avail Technologies of State College, Pa., will make the app and Smart Card tracking available for free for the rest of its three-year contract with the transit system. Wifi will be tested on one bus for 90 days, and then the Citrus Connection board will decide whether to continue it and expand it to more buses.

Heritage Plaza Garage Project Closes Roads

Driving and parking are getting trickier near the construction site for the Heritage Plaza Garage. As August begins, streets on three sides are blocked: Kentucky and Tennessee Avenues between Lemon and Orange Streets, and Orange between Kentucky and Tennessee. Tennessee is scheduled to re-open mid-month. Meanwhile, enjoy the show as large cranes hoist huge pre-made concrete panels from trucks that will rumble through downtown into September. The garage is scheduled to open by the end of the year.

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